Snapper Island, comprising the original sandstone area, fore
and aft areas of made ground, a range of utilitarian buildings and maritime
structures, is historically important as the primary expression of the Navy
League UK, established at Drummoyne in 1921 by Len Forsythe, who saw the need
to establish a voluntary training scheme for young boys, as naval cadets. The
Sea Cadet movement is believed to be one of the oldest youth movements in the
English speaking world.
The Snapper Island facility was officially opened on
26 November 1932 by Sir Charles Cox, on behalf of the Minister for Defence, as
a living memorial to HMAS Sydney. HMAS Sydney, the first Royal Australian Navy
ship to sink an enemy warship, the Emden, had been an inspiration to
Forsythe. Snapper Island was the headquarters of Sydney's naval cadet groups and the Navy
League from 1932 to 1977, and as such provided a voluntary step towards
recruitment in the Australian Navy.
(Historic Themes: 6.3 Training people for the workplace, 7.7 Defending Australia, 8.9
Commemorating significant events)
Snapper Island is of exceptional interest as a
privately initiated and seminal naval cadet training facility, as the earliest
surviving Navy League training depot in NSW and for its ship-like planning and
The Snapper Island
training facility is recognised for its contribution to the landscape values of
is highly valued by Sydney's
naval cadet groups and the local communities for its symbolic, cultural, educational
and social associations.
is closely associated with Len Forsythe, founder of the Navy League in Australia, and the driving force behind the
development of Snapper Island as the focus of naval cadet training in Sydney.
Snapper Island is a 1.65-hectare island at the mouth of the Parramatta River located approximately 300 metres
north-east of Birkenhead Point, Drummoyne and oriented in a
north-east/south-west direction. Cockatoo Island lies to the north-cast and Spectacle Island to the north-west.
The building platform is retained in part by rubble stone walls and in part by
concrete sea walls. On the south-eastern side the original foreshore outcrops
survive to form part of the side of the ship shaped island below the Mess Deck
Starboard Classroom and between buildings 9 and 10, the J Payne Memorial
Building and Main Deck Museum. The upper level of the island includes the Port
Waist and Rifle Range, the Quarterdeck and the site of the Main Deck which
define the original island areas. The lower level includes the Forecastle Deck,
After End and the sites of buildings 3-6, 7-9 and 14. The Port Waist and part
of the Quarterdeck are cement paved in common with areas between buildings
9-10. Capstan Flat comprises lawn and concrete pathways.
The island was planned to reflect the layout of ships at sea, the Main Deck
building flanked by Port and Starboard Waists with Quarter Deck and After End
at the stern and the Forecastle Deck at the prow. The Officers Accommodation is
clearly separated from other ranks and closely associated with the Signal
Station and Quarterdeck towards the stern. The Port and Starboard wharves
(Items 1, 15), which provide access, are of timber construction as is the
slatted boat Whaler ramp adjacent to building 6 (the Boatshed, Workshop and
Store) and a number of walkways. The Baths and Tidal pools have collapsed. The
main approach to the island on the north western side is identified by the two
cabbage tree palms planted in the 1930s and the Officers accommodation.
Buildings, which define the islands naval superstructure, and illustrate its
cadet and museum roles, include the following.
Guard House (Item 2)
Officers Wardroom Mess (3)
Generator Room (4)
Mens and Womens Toilet
Blocks (5, 7)
Boat Shed, Workshop and Store (6)
J Payne Memorial Building (9)
Main Deck-Museum (10)
Mess Deck-Starboard Classroom (11)
Signal Station (12)
Officers Cottage (14)
Flammable Store (16)
These main buildings which define the ship-like planning and layout are
predominantly corrugated galvanised iron and timber, with a combination of
hipped and skillion roof forms. A signal mast adds to the maritime character.
Other features illustrating the training role of the island include boat
davits, a capstan, derricks, bollards and winches and signal masts. Other site
features include a range of functional items from shipping, a memorial to
Captain Bligh, cannon, anchors, a steam engine, naval field guns, gun barrels
from Hood, Repulse and Renown, and the 1932 foundation stone laid by Miss Charles
Fairfax on 21 May 1932. The island also contains a number of individual items
of note including the original Austral petrol driven electric generator of
A small area of the original rock outcrops of the island remain which may
contain archaeological evidence of former uses.